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CDC Defines the Biological Threat

CDC Categorizes Bioterrorism Agents and Diseases

Events involving naturally occurring  pathogens and weaponized biological agents share many features.  The intentional release of smallpox would make world-wide front page news and would be a devastating global public health crisis. Naturally occurring biological events are no different, albeit much less glamorous. Naturally occurring biological events can be as devastating as any intentional biological event, but we rarely consider seasonal flu as a "major event". The fact is that any biologic event can have a profound physical and psychological impact on society and culture. The 2012/2013 Influenza season is a good example of how a naturally occurring event can impact public health. Solid biologic event planning is the key to successful operation during a natural or intentional event. You need know how to write your biologic plan and should avoid common pitfalls in bio-event planning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list biological agents into categories according to potential harm and ability to be manipulated. Category A biologic agents are those pathogen (bacteria, toxins, and virus) that are rarely seen in the United States and have potential to be enhanced or engineered in order to increase the likelihood of harm. Pathogens in Category A include:
  • Anthrax
  • Botulism
  • Plague
  • Smallpox
  • Tularemia
  • Viral  hemorrhagic fevers

According to the CDC Bioterrorism Agents/Diseases page, Category A biologic agents  pose a risk to national security because they can be easily transmitted person to person, have high mortality rates/major public health impact, could cause panic and social disruption, and require special public health preparedness.

Category B pathogens are defined as those that are moderately easy to disseminate, result in moderate mobility rates and low mortality rates, and need specific enhancements of CDC diagnostic capacity and surveillance. 

Visit the CDC Bioterrorism agents/diseases page for further details on category B pathogens.

Category C pathogens are defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as those emerging pathogens that could be engineered for mass dissemination in the future. Factors in this making this determination include availability, ease of production and dissemination, and potential for high morbidity/mortality rates with major public health impact.

 Visit the CDC Bioterrorism agents/diseases page for further details on category C pathogens.

What could we do to a virus, toxin, or bacteria to enhance its effects? The first step in answering that question is to understand the target potential (hard or soft) and dissemination. Understand also that intentional biological events may utilize indirect means of dissemination. Person to person spread of disease is possible in both natural and intentional events.

Additional Media
How to write your biologic plan

Four pitfalls to avoid in biologic planning

What good plans have that bad ones don't

The Bioterrorist Next Door

Clinton Warns of Bioweapon threat

Black Death DNA

Alarm Dutch lab creates killer flu

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